Monday, December 22, 2014

Goodness in Callahan and Etna, California, and everywhere!

So just at the perfect timing, once again, Whisper picked us up as we had only 
just gotten to Forest Road 17 to hitch. She was "trail-angelling" for her friend and about 
to meet up with her again, so she couldn't take us all the way to Etna. 
I got comfortable in the back on a bed that they would sleep on each night.

As Whisper dropped us off in Callahan, we noticed a truck parked on the other side of the road. It was a family with children who looked as if they were waiting on someone. Freebird and I both had the intuition that we would be riding with them. First, we went on a short exploration of this very tiny town, a few dilapidated buildings that stretched along the highway. 
Most of the old stores and hotels were closed down permanently.

Other than the post office, this may have been the only store still in business. They weren't open yet that early in the morning.

A tidbit of history about Callahan - was part of the Oregon Trail in the pass.

The whole town of Callahan.

We walked back up to the northern end of town and began to hitch. Just then, the mother of that family called us over and asked where we were going. She said that she and her husband could 
drive us to Etna, as soon as the grandmother came to pick up the children. Within minutes, she arrived, and the children were passed over to her. Then we were off to Etna.

On the way there, the couple shared stories of their family and friends who were forced 
to evacuate their properties due to the encroaching forest fires of the area.

The couple gave us a brief tour of the town and dropped us off at Ray's Food Place, where we would resupply. How sweet of them! We opted to go shopping later, and instead wandered just a couple buildings down the road to the library to meet the thru-hikers hanging out on the front porch. 
The library was closed for the Sunday, but there were signs posted telling us where to stay, 
eat dinner, do laundry - all the basics that hikers need to know. Meanwhile, the thru-hikers 
were sitting outside for hours, sharing stories of the trail and getting to know each other 
while charging their cell phones and listening to music.

All of these hikers had just gone through the part of the trail that we skipped and complained about the smoke. The Giant, in particular, had really suffered. He had attempted to cover his nose and mouth with no relief - his throat was scratchy, he could barely breathe, and his eyes were itchy and watering. He had just experienced this discomfort that morning before arriving in Etna, and had enough. The majority of the hikers that we met did not want to take another risk of being exposed to more smoke in the next section through the Marble Mountains. The Log Fire was just a few miles to the east of the Pacific Crest Trail in that area, but it hadn't been a threat enough to close that part of the trail yet. So what many were choosing to do instead was skip up to Ashland, Oregon.

A few of the hikers received this awesome ride from a trail angel.

The Giant and Delta.
While waiting on my camera batteries to charge, this kind woman named Delta came over to meet us. She lived just across the street from us and was curious about seeing the group of us sitting outside. 
I thought she was absolutely adorable and such a sweet woman. The locals thought so too; they loved her. Everyone that drove or walked past made it a point to stop and say hello to her. Delta didn't remember us the next time she walked by that day, but she was just as loving as ever.

Freebird, I, and others were determining whether or not it was safe to continue hiking the next section of the trail, knowing that the Log Fire was nearby. Some of the hikers whipped out their cell phones to get in contact with the PCTA or any forest ranger that was available. Just then, a ranger pulled up at the supermarket with a sign plastered on the side of his SUV, "Fire Information." While the hikers were put on hold and waited to talk to someone, Freebird and I went over to talk to this man.

Paul was changing a map on the information board in front of the store to be current with that very day. We introduced ourselves and asked him questions. The next section of the PCT, he told us, was not closed to hikers yet. As far as the weather forecast appeared to show, the winds would be blowing the next few days to the east/northeast. The smoke and fire itself would most likely not be an issue.

We returned to the library to relay the message to the others, who were also hearing the same information via their phones. Freebird and I decided to stay the night in town and get a ride to the trail the next day. Again, intuition also told us that everything would be fine. 

So off we went for our next errand, to do laundry and take showers at the 
local bed and breakfast. On the way there, we explored downtown Etna.

Historic murals on the exterior wall of the fire station.

Picking blackberries to take with us on the trail.

We met a woman cleaning the glass outside of the store. Before she was finished, she showed us this mark a pigeon made when it rammed into the window. The bird flew away unharmed thankfully.

The local movie theater.

We met this guy in the street that warm afternoon. He seemed to be thirsty. We searched around for some water for him, perhaps from a hose... and then he wandered away before we could find any.

We arrived, now time to clean up!

We knocked on the door, and shortly, Vickie came to the door. She and her husband Dave run this bed and breakfast, with rooms available in the house and a hikers hut (as a cheaper option) next door. They also allow you to do laundry and take showers in the hut for a small fee. Vickie provided us with towels, and told us that there was a shelf in the hikers hut filled with all sorts of clothes to change into so we could wash everything we owned. She saw my tank top that was stretching out and falling apart and told me that I could pick any shirt I wanted. I wish I did, but I forgot about it later.

The hikers hut. Inside were bunk beds, a communal shower, and some technology that hikers don't use for days when they're on the trail. When we arrived, we saw Optimist again! 
He had patiently waited a few more hours while we were swimming in Tangle Blue Creek 
and received a ride to Etna that night. He and other hikers were watching television and using 
the Internet. After showers, while waiting on laundry, the computer became available. 
Vickie allowed me to use the Internet to check e-mails and write a blog post, even though 
there was a sign posted that the computer was only for hikers staying the night there. 
Meanwhile, we all laughed hysterically as we watched Dumb and Dumber. and Green Card
returned from the store with Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bars for all of us.

After laundry was done, we looked through the treasures of the hiker box and found so much 
food that would make our grocery list much smaller. One of the hikers also let me 
borrow his phone to call my mom back in Indiana.

As we were about to leave, we finally met Dave, Vickie's husband. He looked in 
his garage for some Heet or denatured alcohol for our stove, but he found none.

Then we walked down the driveway and met Mr. Green, who was parked out front. 
Due to an injury, he was unable to stay on the trail. But rather than go back to his hometown,
he chose to be a trail angel and provide hikers rides to wherever they needed to go, 
refusing to accept any payment. He was about to drive a group from the hikers hut over 
to Ashland. He would be returning to town the next day and offered to drive us up to the 
trail head on Etna Summit. We gladly accepted, and decided to meet up at the library.

We walked back through town, heading for Bob's Ranch House for dinner. 
The "hiker hunger" had really caught up to us, and we were directed to the 
place that provides the largest portions for a reasonable price.

Etna is so welcoming of the PCT hikers, as we were already witnessing 
from the actions of others. But seeing these signs was precious!

You've probably noticed by now that I love Etna's multitude of murals.
At the north end of town, we approached and entered Bob's Ranch House. We ordered two specials, a side salad, some onion rings, and finished off with a slice the best homemade lemon meringue pie. Long-distance hikers definitely have a huge appetite. Laurie, the waitress, was a sweetheart who gave us free lemonade and shared heartfelt stories of her daughter. She was very worried for her, for she hadn't heard from her for awhile. She was living in a nearby town that was close to one of the many forest fires in the area. Laurie was waiting to hear if her daughter would have to evacuate.

The sun setting through the smoke, as we walked back into town to resupply groceries and search for a place to sleep.

Helicopters were flying over Etna, to and from a forest fire, trying to put it out.

We stopped at a motel to check out their rates. Pam and Bert, the owners, allowed us to look through their hiker box. Pam then made an extra effort to search in their office for some super glue for my shoes, which were falling apart. She found some and gave it to me. We never did stay the night there, but Pam and Bert didn't mind helping us out in any way that they could.

 Next, we returned to Ray's and did some shopping. The cashier was so interested in our journey, but scared for us to be hiking near the Log Fire the next few days. She wished us well and said that she would pray for our safety. Then we went across the street, picked more blackberries, and sat on the grass in front of the library, condensing all our food into Ziplocs.

The cheapest options in Etna to stay the night were just not suitable for us. The hikers hut was already filled up and no longer available. Or we could set up camp in the city park for a $5 fee. 
We walked past the park and were not impressed. We have come to prefer a quiet place if possible. So we set up camp in a forest just outside of town and slept peacefully that night.

The following morning, we met Juliangelo and SOGO, who had just arrived in town and were looking for the post office to pick up resupply boxes. They were visibly disturbed because word had spread to them that while firefighters were being served lunch that day, a group of four backpackers stole some food and a huge case of Gatorade. They jumped a fence and raced off on their bikes, as a man chased them, yelling, "Stop!" The Gatorade box was too heavy and awkward to carry, so they threw it in the bushes. Then they ran to the hikers hut, which was an obvious place to find them. There weren't really any places they could hide! Everyone knows where the thru-hikers go. 
As we talked to Juliangelo and SOGO, we witnessed several cop cars speeding by with their 
lights and sirens on, heading toward the bed and breakfast.

We ran into these four later that day on the trail. The ringleader, a former Forest Service employee, believed that they were "yogi-ing" (A term for throwing out subtle hints to others that you need or want something, such as food. If others notice and want to provide said item, then they freely give to the hiker.) the food, but acknowledged that they were stealing the Gatorade to share with other hikers. The cops arrived, let them off with fines, and then they returned to the trail at 
Etna Summit. Several miles in, after we met all of them, the ringleader realized that he left his 
food bag back at the hikers hut. Ashamed and embarrassed, he had to return to town 
and face all the locals again. We heard that from there, he "got off of the trail," 
lingo for completely ending a thru-hike.

Earlier when we had seen the cop cars, Freebird and I had felt awful, hoping that this wouldn't taint the locals' perspective of all the other hikers. We stopped by the fire station and met Allen, the fire chief. He had actually not heard the news yet until we talked to him. What Allen said to us is 
that he and the townspeople still love the hikers, and he knows that in any group of people, sometimes there are those who make mistakes. Allen stated, "Hikers are people with backpacks."

It's a shame that many groups of people have been hated and judged, just because of someone who makes a mistake. That happens very often as we all know, and some of us are guilty of doing so.
We all make mistakes, so there is no need to point the finger at anyone. Backpackers, just like everyone, are all wonderful people. Despite our mistakes, we are all inherently good. We all do kind, loving things for each other, which should be emphasized more often. How are we to relate to each other, and how is society to improve, if we judge people for the mistakes they make and see that as the whole of their character? No wonder many of us have low self-worth and fear each other. This goodness had been becoming more evident to me along the journey, everywhere we go,
 and Callahan and Etna are no exception.

Love is all around us, whether or not we realize it!

Mr. Green really exemplified this love the previous evening, as he was driving way over to Ashland and still wanted to return to give us a ride to the trail. We met him in front of the library, and he performed another generous act for me. I had a few postcards to send out but needed to buy postage first, so I asked him for a ride to the post office. "Don't worry about that. I probably have some stamps somewhere in here," Mr. Green said as he dug through his glove box and pulled out just the amount that I needed. Then he drove me right to the front door of the post office, so I could drop them in the mailbox. From there, we went past the bed and breakfast again.

Celery was waiting outside. He was one of the crazy ones like us who decided to go forward 
with the next section. He got in the backseat with me, and we continued up the road to 
Etna Summit, gazing out the windows at the smoke everywhere and exchanging hiking stories. 
Mr. Green told us that we could scope out the area, and if, for any reason, 
we wanted to back out, he would gladly take us back to Etna. No problem.

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